Record-Setting Cosmic Structures Challenge Big Bang
How will big bang theorists deal with the latest news?
First there was the Great Wall. Then there was the Sloan Great Wall, and a supercluster system dubbed Laniakea. “But the newly spotted BOSS Great Wall, with a total mass perhaps 10,000 times as great as the Milky Way, is two-thirds bigger again than either of them,” New Scientist reports today about a billion-light-year galactic “wall” that may be the largest object observed in the cosmos so far.
Galaxy superclusters also have competition for the “biggest known object” crown. Some distant light sources like quasars or gamma ray bursts seem to be clustered together in certain regions of the sky. If they are truly connected, they belong to structures so large that current cosmological theories can’t explain them.
To be fair, the classification is subjective. Some astronomers think the material in the structures are not physically linked. If nothing else, though, they illustrate the lumpiness problem in cosmology. The universe is not a smooth sea of particles as theory would predict. Instead, “On the grandest scales, the universe resembles a cosmic web of matter surrounding empty voids – and these walls are the thickest threads.”
Peering deep into space, a new “cosmic distance record” was set by the Hubble Space Telescope, reports the BBC News. A galaxy with redshift z=11.1 has been observed. It’s called GN-z11. Its high redshift would put its origin 13.4 billion years before the present in standard cosmology, a mere 400 million years after the big bang. The very first stars might become observable. “They are probably another 200 million light-years beyond even GN-z11.”
Dr Oesch and colleagues say GN-z11 is one-25th the size of the Milky Way with just 1% of our galaxy’s mass in stars.
“The surprising thing is how bright it is (for what it represents), and it’s growing really fast, producing stars at a much faster rate,” said the Yale astronomer.
“So, it’s challenging some of our models, but it’s showing galaxy build-up was well under way early on in the Universe, and it’s a great preview for [the] James Webb [Space Telescope], which will be pushing even deeper to see the progenitors of this galaxy.”
The James Webb Telescope may be able to see redshifts between 15 and 30, indicating objects only 100 to 250 million years after the big bang. Science Daily explains where GN-z11 needs to fit in current theory:
“The previous record-holder was seen in the middle of the epoch when starlight from primordial galaxies was beginning to heat and lift a fog of cold, hydrogen gas,” explains co-author Rychard Bouwens from the University of Leiden, the Netherlands. “This transitional period is known as the reionisation era. GN-z11 is observed 150 million years earlier, near the very beginning of this transition in the evolution of the Universe.”
A galaxy of stars this mature so close to the beginning of the universe was not predicted by big bangers, Space.com says:
However, the discovery also raises many new questions as the existence of such a bright and large galaxy is not predicted by theory. “It’s amazing that a galaxy so massive existed only 200 million to 300 million years after the very first stars started to form. It takes really fast growth, producing stars at a huge rate, to have formed a galaxy that is a billion solar masses so soon,” explains Garth Illingworth of the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Marijn Franx, a member of the team from the University of Leiden highlights: “The discovery of GN-z11 was a great surprise to us, as our earlier work had suggested that such bright galaxies should not exist so early in the Universe.” His colleague Ivo Labbe adds: “The discovery of GN-z11 showed us that our knowledge about the early Universe is still very restricted. How GN-z11 was created remains somewhat of a mystery for now. Probably we are seeing the first generations of stars forming around black holes.”
If this trend continues, the James Webb telescope may push theory to the breaking point after it launches in 2018.
A piece on PhysOrg states, “The early universe consisted almost entirely of hydrogen atoms, but at some point – probably about 500 million years after the Big Bang – the first stars formed.” Something is dreadfully wrong here. One cannot have a galaxy turning up 100 million years earlier than the first stars. Maybe the new physics theory announced by PhysOrg will rewrite the textbooks. Readers may wish to see why a Caltech astronomer found something “frustrating, but interesting” about the first galaxies. “For a while we were convinced that we were missing something important,” he said on PhysOrg, but then he and his colleagues were “shocked” when theory matched his prediction. It must be a rare occurrence.
Other cosmologists, like those on Science Daily, will continue to speak glibly about the leading theory that posits “a region of space the size of a single proton vastly expanded to form the beginnings of our universe” in a fraction of a second. Somehow, the article says, the universe learned how to make French onion soup from that sudden explosive beginning.
Let’s recap. The big bangers did not predict this galaxy or the BOSS Great Wall. They were amazed. It was a great surprise. The GN-z11 galaxy should not exist, but it does. The big bangers admit that their knowledge about the early Universe is still very restricted, after decades of research. Such objects are a mystery to them. Their cosmological theories cannot explain them. And yet they get to keep their jobs? Sounds like government workers.